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Cosmically Unlovable.

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Hours previous, the TARDIS flagged up a temporal disruption in a warehouse in 1950s New York City. The Doctor, like a puppet on a cosmogyral string, went willingly, excited to stop an extraterrestrial heist with Yasmin Khan and Dan Lewis. She didn’t expect the aliens to have fire breath and to be after Weeping Angels.


There’s a first time for everything, she supposes. Plus, the joke is on the aliens: the Weeping Angels don’t come into this warehouse until the 80s at the very earliest. The Doctor makes sure to keep track.


It’s all fun and games until they wind up stuck on a suspended platform at the top of the warehouse where the only way out is down.


There’s fire everywhere, the Doctor muses without much care; there’s always fire. It creeps up towards the suspended platform she stands on with Yaz and Dan, who seem much more bothered by the flames than the Doctor can even pretend to be, and threatens the only thing preventing them from falling to their death. The Doctor cannot look away from the dancing golden flames, reminiscent of all the funerals she’s been to in her long, long life: it’s beautiful that a harbinger of destruction can be so alluring.


The Doctor walks forward, entranced. Yaz’s hand on her shoulder stops her in her tracks.


She looks up and is taken aback by doe—brown eyes.


Only when the Doctor looks away from the fire does she realise this is not good . At least the aliens aren’t chasing them for a diamond anymore.


“What we do, Doc?” Dan asks, watching the interaction wearily.


Beneath them, fire’s fingers jerk the platform and they wobble precariously, all holding on to the edges as tight as they can. The Doctor scans the area for the umpteenth time for anything that might aid in their escape. 


An empty watering can. A fraying piece of rope. A blue fez.


The Doctor runs to the fez, picks it up and jerks her mind awake. She thinks of the TARDIS and how she’s never let her down and an idea strikes.


“Right, Fam,” without Graham and Ryan, the word feels like ash on her tongue and she forces herself not to make a sour face. She pulls the sonic out from her pocket and hands it to Dan. “Dan, when I snap my fingers I need you to press and hold the third and sixth buttons on my sonic. The blues ones. Whatever you do, do not press the yellow ones.” The blue ones will attract her TARDIS, the yellow ones… a panic button of sorts. “Yaz—”


“Anything,” Yaz says definitively.


Despite the circumstances, the Doctor smiles. “Perfect. When Dan presses the buttons, the TARDIS is going to come, but she isn’t going to be able to get very close. I’ll open the doors, but you have to jump.”


Yaz doesn’t flinch. “I trust you.” It sounds like a promise, like an anchor.


The Doctor buries the swell in her dual hearts deep, deep down. “Cover your ears. The noise is going to hurt.” 


“What about your ears?”


“Superior timelord biology.”


Yaz grins, placing her hands over her ears as requested. The Doctor places the fez over Dan’s ears to protect them.


She takes one more look into the fire — sees herself burning memories and skirting around feelings she refuses to accept — and snaps her fingers.


The fire roars when Dan presses the buttons and the Doctor can feel its ache in her bones. Encountering semi—sentient fire can officially be ticked off of her bucket list. She sees Yaz flinch out of the corner of her eyes and tears prickle, standing dumbly as she waits for her trusty TARDIS.


She almost sings when she hears the thwarping. The TARDIS flies around in brief confusion before settling as close as she can get to the platform. The Doctor snaps her fingers and Dan lets go of the buttons, and she gently pries Yaz’s hands away from her ears.


“If this goes wrong,” Yaz starts, assessing the distance between the platform, the TARDIS and the approaching flames.


“It won’t,” The Doctor assures, because it can’t. She can’t lose Yaz, too.


“If this goes wrong,” Yaz continues like the Doctor never spoke. She threads her fingers through the Doctor’s, placing her life in the Time Lord’s hands. The Doctor will repeat this moment over and over again if it goes wrong; she’ll change the future if she needs to. 


Yaz will not die here. Time obeys the Doctor. The Doctor does not obey time.


Yaz sees a flicker in the Doctor’s eyes.


It’s extinguished in favour of jade determination.


“If this goes wrong, I love you .”


Yaz untangles their fingers and she leaps. The Doctor swears her hearts stop when the flames singe Yaz’s new boots.


They don’t start again until Yaz is safe aboard the TARDIS.


She feels Dan’s hand upon her shoulder and jumps out of her skin. 


“I told you, Doc.” There is vague amusement in his voice as he hands the sonic back, then follows in Yaz’s path and jumps. The Doctor feels less heart—gripping panic when he does.


She quickly follows suit, a receipt falling out of her pocket as she jumps. The only evidence she has of the alien’s misconduct is now burning in the fire they started and she can’t help but grit her teeth.


The Doctor sags against the console of the TARDIS, floor hard against her behind, unconcerned by the levers pressing into her archaic spine.


“Whew,” she breathes, not looking anywhere particular. She trusts the TARDIS to fly them to safety, and preferably out of 1950s New York City. She’s not sure how much the temporal atmosphere can take, considering… “I don’t think all this risk is good for me at my old age.”


Yaz slumps onto their mattress, pulling the patchwork quilt over her shivering form. She wishes she could know where it comes from.


“You can’t be that old,” Dan muses, thermos of soup in hand as supplied by the TARDIS. “You look younger than me!”


“As far as I’m aware, I’m well over four billion years old,” the Doctor waves a flippant hand but Yaz and Dan’s jaws drop.


“As far as you’re aware?” Yaz hesitantly asks. The Doctor avoids their prying eyes, picking at the flooring. The TARDIS hums in discontent.


“On Gallifrey, the Master… told me something. The Time Lords have been hiding stuff from me. I’m not from Gallifrey. Not biologically, at least,” even though it’s brought the Doctor nothing but pain, to discredit Gallifrey as her home makes something stir uncomfortably in her gut. “There was a woman, Tecteun, who experimented on me and made the Time Lords from my own regenerative biology.” The Doctor stands, effectively ending the conversation. She doesn’t know how much longer she can talk about it without bursting at the seams with grief.


Dan follows her to the kitchen, but Yaz stays behind. The Doctor presumes she’s texting Sonya, or maybe Ryan. 


The Doctor fusses with the kettle and cupboards, brewing a cuppa and searching for her custard creams. The TARDIS was easier to navigate when a perfectionist had labelled everything for them.


“You can’t keep her in the dark,” Dan says, startling the Doctor and her cup of boiling water. She sighs as it spills out of the mug. “Me? I don’t mind. We all have our secrets, Doc. But Yaz likes you. But she won’t much for much longer if you don’t start telling her things.”


“I’m waiting until the beach,” the Doctor frowns. It sounds feeble to her own ears.


“She told you she loves you, Doc.” He glances back at Yaz who’s spread herself across the mattress, the Doctor’s childhood bear close to her chest. He suspects she’s asleep, but the Doctor knows otherwise. She knows the faint sounds of Yaz sleeping like she knows a map of the stars; like she knows the specks in Yaz’s brown eyes. “Don’t let that go.”


He wanders off, presumably to his bedroom the TARDIS designated him, taking her custard creams with him. She scowls heatlessly.



“Can I sit?” The Doctor asks Yaz hesitantly. She pats the empty space on the mattress beside her and it takes the Doctor all of her effort to not collapse onto it. “The bedrooms are more comfortable than the Old Girl’s floors, y’know.”


Yaz shrugs. “I know. But I’d much rather sleep here, with you, so I know you’re not overexerting yourself, even if you don’t sleep yourself.”


“I sleep,” the Doctor protests before swallowing her own tongue when Yaz raises her eyebrows. “Fine. I don’t sleep because of nightmares. I’ve been in this Universe for an incomprehensibly long time, Yaz. I’ve seen more than you could ever imagine. I don’t want to wake you up, and I don’t want to face those things; so I don’t sleep.” Plus, Time Lord biology .


Yaz places her soft hands over the Doctor’s fists and leans forward, searching for something within the Doctor’s eyes. The Doctor figures she finds it because her features soften. “Then tell me.”


The Doctor thinks this is the closest she’s been physically been to someone else in centuries, perhaps even millennia, excluding the Master (but the Doctor has always classed them in their own category). “Yaz,” the Doctor whispers her name like a prayer to the Universe, like she’s wishing for more time.


“What do you dream of?”


“The death of stars. The death of my friends. Donna’s hopeless face when I took her memories away, Martha becoming a soldier. The library.” The Doctor shuts her eyes so Yaz starts to stroke her fist with her thumb. She’s whispering still, like if she says quietly it doesn’t make it real. “Myself.”




More hesitantly, “myself.”


“I’m not scared of you, Doctor,” Yaz remains steadfast and the Doctor has to resist a scoff.


“You should be.” The Doctor’s lungs feel like they are aflame. “Do you know what they call me? The Oncoming Storm, The Beast of Trenzalore, The Shadow of the Valeyard. The Destroyer of Worlds. I’ve destroyed planets, galaxies, entire lives.” She pushes Yaz’s hand off of her own. “I’m a legend parents tell their children to get them to behave. I’m meant to be a Pillar of Hope, A Doctor , but instead, I screw it all up.”


“You know what I think?” The Doctor knows Yaz will tell her whether she wants to hear it. “I think you’re old and I think you’re afraid. We’ve been through the end of the Universe together, Doctor. What else is there to fear?”


Losing you !” She yells without meaning to, the fury of a thousand stars burning her throat with cynicism and heartbreak. She stands, Yaz watching her every movement from the mattress, scared if she’ll ever be welcomed back again. “Earlier you said you loved me. I love you too. But I can’t . I can’t love you, Yasmin Khan, not like you want me to.”


“Why not, Doctor?” Yaz’s voice adopts desperation. 


The Doctor tries not to focus on her two hearts burning and scoffs.


“Everyone I love meets a tragic fate! It’s the curse of loving a Time Lord. The Master blew up our home planet, Rose is stuck in a parallel dimension, Martha is a soldier, Donna doesn’t remember anything we did , the day I met my wife she died , the Ponds are dead, Clara’s dead, Bill’s dead, Ryan and Graham—” The Doctor wipes away tears she hadn’t realised formed. “—Ryan and Graham left. I killed Graham’s wife . You’re bound to be next, Yaz. It’s how the Universe works. I’m cosmically unlovable.”


The Doctor feels the forest fire of grief swallow her whole. Not for the first time in her travels with Yaz, she’s afraid of her feelings.


Afraid of where they’ll lead her.


She knows Yaz will follow the Doctor to the ends of the Universe, regardless of what it does to her.


That’s what she’s scared of the most.


“What I think, Doctor,” Yaz approaches hesitantly, brushing aside her own feelings and the brand they leave on her tongue, “is that you bring light wherever you go. I’ve seen you in action: you’re a hero. You spark hope and faith. People believe in you .”


“That faith gets them killed,” The Doctor states, tone as sharp as a guillotine.


“I haven’t been killed.”


“Not yet.”


“Doctor,” Yaz pries her fists open gently, taking care to soothe every finger into relaxation like the Doctor has done many times before for Yaz. She accepts a small victory when the Doctor’s spine begins to sag. “ I’m not going anywhere .”


“You promise?” Vulnerability is seldom seen within the Doctor; Yaz tries her hardest not to cry at how defeated the saviour looks with reddened eyes and ruddy, tear—stained cheeks. Yaz thinks they look like streams of moonlight.


She links their pinkies. The Doctor smiles despite herself, rage and sorrow ceasing to simmer beneath her starlight flesh. “I promise.”